Because he is body and soul, man has basic human needs, like food, drink, clothes, and shelter, which he cannot obtain unless he has basic, minimal possessions. The trouble is that possessions quickly engender love for them; love breeds dependence; and dependence is only one step away from slavery. Merely human wisdom, like Virgil’s Aeneid, has stigmatized it as “the sacrilegious hunger for gold.”
For the Catholic, the problem of material possessions is compounded with the issue of using the goods as if not using them, of living in the world without being of the world. This is the paradox best defined by Our Lord in the first beatitude: “Blessed be the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Our civilization is fast heading towards decomposition partly for not understanding these basic truths. Besides, the social fabric has suffered greatly from a twin process which only increases the crisis. Firstly, we have witnessed the reduction of politics to mere economy. To this is added the issue that the financial world, to the amount of 98%, is a vast lottery, a mere speculation without real exchange.
It is difficult to not see in this the ultimate descent into the abyss of lucre, butting heads with the evangelical wisdom. “Where is our heart, there is our treasure.” We all know the worries and sweat parents undergo to provide their children with a Catholic school and education. They deprive themselves of many things which they would enjoy had they given in to selfish pursuits. Selfishness thinks twice when it comes to give life, but very little when it comes to succumbing to a gratifying pleasure.
Our Lord, who suffered hunger and cold, is aware of even our smallest needs. In His mercy, He wanted us to go through life as exiles in this vale of tears, so as to long for the other life “where neither rust nor moth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Mt. 6:20). There is something deeply human and refreshing at throwing a well earned dollar in the beggar’s hat for the sake of Christ who told us that there will always be poor in this world.
Fr. Jürgen Wegner